Historical background::Establishment Clause


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Historical background

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

{{#invoke:main|main}} A notable precursor of the Establishment Clause was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in 1779. It did not pass the General Assembly until 1786. James Madison played an important role in its passage. The statute disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews as well as members of all Protestant denominations.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

United States Bill of Rights

{{#invoke:main|main}} The First Amendment is part of a group of 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. The idea of adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution was proposed by George Mason five days before the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787.<ref name="madison struggle">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>:9 His proposal was rejected by the other delegates. Alexander Hamilton later argued in The Federalist Papers that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, claiming that since the Constitution granted limited powers to the federal government, it did not grant the new government the power to abuse the rights that would be secured by a Bill of Rights.<ref name="madison struggle" />:9–10 Nevertheless, the supporters of the Constitution (known as Federalists) in order to secure its ratification in Massachusetts, agreed to add a group of Amendments to the Constitution after its ratification that would serve as a Bill of Rights. Later, six more states likewise recommended the addition of a Bill of Rights, and the idea also gained the support of Jefferson and Madison. When the First Federal Congress met in 1789, Madison implemented the idea by introducing 17 Amendments to the Constitution. By December 1791, ten of his Amendments were ratified by the necessary three quarters of the states, and they became part of the US Constitution, thereafter becoming known as "the Bill of Rights".<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Concerns of Virginia Baptists

The Establishment Clause addressed the concerns of members of minority faiths who did not want the federal government to establish a state religion for the entire nation. The Baptists in Virginia, for example, had suffered discrimination prior to the disestablishment of the Anglican church in 1786. As Virginia prepared to hold its elections to the state ratifying convention in 1788, the Baptists were concerned that the Constitution had no safeguard against the creation of a new national church. In Orange County, Virginia, two federalist candidates, James Madison and James Gordon, Jr., were running against two anti-federalists (opponents of the Constitution), Thomas Barbour and Charles Porter. Barbour requested to John Leland, an influential Baptist preacher and fervent lifelong proponent of religious liberty, that he write a letter to Barbour outlining his objections to the proposed Constitution.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} See p. 764, footnote 147, which presents a quote from a copy of Leland's letter (as quoted in an article by L.H. Butterfield): "Sir, According to your Request, I have sent you my objections to the Foederal Constitution, which are as follows. . . .".</ref> Leland stated in the letter that, among his other concerns, the Constitution had no Bill of Rights and no safeguards for religious liberty and freedom of the press.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> A number of historians have concluded on the basis of compelling circumstantial evidence that, just prior to the election in March 1788, Madison met with Leland and gained his support of ratification by addressing these concerns and providing him with the necessary reassurances. In any event, Leland cast his vote for Madison. Leland's support, according to Scarberry, was likely key to the landslide victory of Madison and Gordon.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} Scarberry states on pp. 775-6: "At the very least, it seems probable that Madison met with Leland before the election and persuaded Leland to support Madison's candidacy, which otherwise likely would have failed."</ref><ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

Establishment Clause sections
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Historical background
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